I have been so honoured to serve as Co-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens, and as the Greens Senator for Queensland.
By Larissa Waters
Well my friends, what a year it has been.
I have been so honoured to serve as Co-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens, and as the Greens Senator for Queensland, holding the portfolios for Women, Environment & Biodiversity, Mining & Resources, Gambling, and Tourism.
I am so grateful to have represented the people of Queensland who believe in a fair and sustainable future and gender equality. Who want a voice in Parliament that stands up against the mining corporations and gambling companies that pour millions in donations into our political system. Who believe it is an absolute imperative to protect our precious natural wonders, like the Great Barrier Reef.
Fight against Adani
Our fight continues against the catastrophic Adani Carmichael coal mine that poses the single greatest threat not only to our precious Reef, but to the future of the planet. In Parliament, we have introduced the Stop Adani Bill and have successfully moved for an inquiry into the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), the body which gets to decide if Adani get a mates rates loan of a billion dollars of tax payer money, despite functioning with almost zero transparency. The bill and inquiry are an opportunity to seek to call Adani for questioning, so that we can grill them on their appalling environmental history and allegations of fraud, corruption and use of tax havens. Queenslanders deserve sustainable jobs in renewable energy and genuine climate action, and I know the trail will continue to be blazed both inside and outside of our Parliament to stop this devastating mine.
The last year has also seen important moves to address gender inequality in Australia, and our work is far from over.
Backed by a spirited campaign by community legal centres, we stopped the 30 percent funding cuts that would have seen women and children fleeing family violence turned away, putting their lives in danger. It's horrific that up to two women are killed by their current or former partner each week, while the Coalition government still chronically underfunds and denies long-term funding certainty for the services that are working to save lives.
We've begun the work to address the frightening epidemic of sexual assault on campuses that disproportionately affect women and the LGBTIQ community. The Australian Human Rights Commission's report that highlighted the scale of the problem is just the first step. We must now take bold steps to make sure all students are afforded the right to learn and thrive in a safe environment. I want to acknowledge the work of activists like End Rape on Campus and the Hunting Ground Australia Project. It was only under sustained pressure from these groups that the Universities agreed to the survey in the first place then to release individual results for each universities and for the report to include recommendations.
We continue to fight against the Coalition's budget and agenda and their consequences, which disproportionately affect women. The lowering of the HECS repayment threshold, forcing 185,000 additional people to start paying back their fees earlier, and the tax cuts to big business while taking away penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers, and continued inaction on the gender pay gap and superannuation gap, hit women the hardest.
The Liberal and Labor parties also voted down our move to end the tampon tax. They could choose to properly tax big business and multinational corporations, instead they prefer to keep taxing women for simply existing. Our campaign got an enormous nation-wide response, our petition gained over 16,000 signatures. I am confident that it is only a matter of time before we win this campaign to end this state-sponsored gender discrimination.
Gambling and Casinos
Last year, we launched PokieLeaks, shining a light on the scams and rip-offs hurting ordinary Australians through rigged poker machines and illegal industry practices. This scandalous behaviour has been allowed to continue because of the big money that the gambling lobby donate to the old parties.
While there is an abundance of evidence that gambling and pokies in particular cause devastating harm to individuals and communities, Queensland has been facing the development of two huge mega-casinos destined for The Spit on the Gold Coast and Queens Wharf in Brisbane City. These developers have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the State Labor Government and the Opposition.
The Spit would have seen publicly owned green space destroyed for Caesars Entertainment, owners of more than 50 casinos across the world, to erect a casino that 70 percent of Gold Coast residents rejected. I'm thrilled that the Spit development has since been abandoned, following a mammoth effort from grassroots networks across Queensland, and paving a way for the space to be appropriately utilised through genuine community consultation and planning. This movement and enormous success has again proven the immense power of a united community campaign, and it gives me great hope of the Brisbane CBD proposed Queens Wharf casino following suit as the campaign against it builds with equal momentum.
State election for Queensland
As you can see, there is so much work left to do, and I am so very sad to leave behind my colleagues and friends as they continue the Greens' vital work inside our Parliament. I will seek to return, but whether and when that happens is in the hands of the Queensland members, and right now Queensland is appropriately focused on winning our first seat in state parliament – a long overdue addition. Queensland's political system is broken, rigged to work in the favour of developers, big business, and corporations at the expense of the rest of us. Staring in the face of the ticking time bomb that is Adani, and the land-clearing and developers running rampant across our state, the time has never been so dire to elect a state Greens representative.
My message to the other states and members is that if there's any time to lend your support to Queensland, now is that time.
As a final note on party and policy, I want to address the recent reports of sexual assault and the need for our party to properly address complaints of this nature, whether those complaints be made formally or informally. We cannot let this matter be swept under the carpet. Our priority when dealing with these matters must be to ensure the safety of victims, and to ensure that our processes are focussed on achieving justice. Our party must be a safe space for women. By the same token, I would like to see the state and national party adopt quotas for preselecting female candidates, including in winnable seats. Our proud history of gender equality will face challenges as our success increases, and we must have the processes in place to protect that legacy.
I want to acknowledge and farewell my very dear friend and colleague, Scott Ludlam, for his passionate advocacy for the planet, online rights, against all facets of the nuclear cycle, for our first Australians, and for his perplexing resistance to using capital letters. We're all going to miss you desperately and the parliament is so much the poorer without your presence. We all can't wait to see what comes next for you and what form your incredible dedication to the betterment of our earth next takes.
I also acknowledge and thank all the members and volunteers who worked so hard to have me elected in 2010 then again last year, it would not have been done without you, and you make me so proud.
I would also like to publicly thank my wonderful partner Jeremy, who has provided unwavering support as I've brought our little baby Alia Joy into the world, all the while maintaining my role as Senator, Deputy-Leader, mother, and activist.
Thank you to my party room colleagues and friends, Greens staff, members and supporters across the country for your support for the last six years. It's been an incredible journey. It's not over yet.